I know about the loudness wars. I know how to normalize, compress, notch frequencies, create fuller sounds. I'd make a track that's not necessarily muddy of muffled. But I cannot for the life of me get my tracks as loud as the stuff I hear every day from artists on soundcloud. I've gone right to the edge of loudness, being careful to avoid distortion. I pull out all the tricks and I can't go any further, yet everyone seems to effortlessly blow past a loudness limit I seem hampered by.
Of course I want to avoid distortion, but it seems like everyone is playing at a different level. I just don't see how they do it.
I use a PC, Reaper Software, MXL 550 & SM-57 mics, & a Firepod I/O.